By Mike Kaszuba, Rochelle Olson and Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he is leaning toward a site near the Basilica of St. Mary in downtown Minneapolis for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, saying it appears the most workable, but added that the Metrodome could be a potential fallback location.
But the governor, speaking for the first time since reviewing multiple stadium plans submitted last Thursday, said that the three front-running sites for a new stadium all had major problems that could block a stadium solution by the Legislature this year.
The Vikings prefer a $1.1 billion stadium plan in Ramsey County’s Arden Hills, which along with the Metrodome and the Basilica site have emerged as the most likely new home for the Vikings. The team has played at the Metrodome for 30 years.
Dayton said the so-called Linden Avenue site, near the Basilica, "offers significant advantages over the Metrodome, particularly its proximity to Target Center, Target Fields, downtown hotels...and the like."
"Unless the Legislature is willing to change its insistence on a voter referendum before Ramsey County can impose any kind of tax increase, the only two feasible sites become the Metrodome and Linden Avenue, both in Minneapolis," Dayton said.
He said "necessary due diligence" had not been done in order for him to give an unreserved recommendation for the Linden Avenue site. The governor said the Metrodome is the "default" site, but said it does not have the same potential for future economic development.
Despite the governor’s comments Wednesday, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said the Metrodome was still the best location for a new stadium. The Metrodome, the mayor said, is “still the ideal location for [the governor’s] ‘People’s Stadium.’ “
There were however signs on several fronts that the Vikings stadium saga may be going nowhere fast.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, the chief House stadium legislation author, said he was not prepared to select a stadium site, and said a stadium working group was scheduled to hold a six-hour meeting Wednesday to continue working on the issue.
If some, including Dayton , have made up their minds, “I’m telling you, as stadium author, that’s not where I’m at,” he said.
“We’re still not there yet,” said Lanning.
Dayton's sports facility commission chair, Ted Mondale, said downtown businesses appeared to prefer the Linden Hills site as well.
Dayton said he was disappointed that neither the Vikings nor Minneapolis or Ramsey County had come forward with workable finance, site and political plans. He called the proposal submitted by Minneapolis last week "meager."
"You can't make a decision until you have all the facts," Dayton said.
Without answers soon, Dayton said it would be "less likely" a stadium proposal can get passed this legislative session, which begins Tuesday.. But, he said, he still held out hope.
"I think we're very close. I think we're at the 5-yard line," Dayton said. "We've got relatively few unanswered questions."
The governor said key problems with the Ramsey County site include the Legislature's unwillingness to back any kind of local tax to raise funds to build the stadium, and Ramsey County's inability to find another way to fund it. He also said that unless the Vikings contribute $700 million to Arden Hills, the stadium cannot be built there. The Vikings had previously pledged $425 million for the site and the Vikings' Bagley said Wednesday afternoon that the team would not pay $700 million.
Without changes to the current reality at Arden Hills, "in my judgment the Arden Hills site is not financially viable," Dayton said.
He also said the Vikings must say definitively what they will contribute at the potential Minneapolis sites. Team officials have said they would contribute less to a Minneapolis site than they would to an Arden Hills project, but have not put a specific number to their potential Minneapolis contributions.
Here's the analysis Dayton released of the two Minneapolis sites and the Arden Hill's location: